πŸ“» Bitcoin Radio β€” Issue No. 39


On February 12th, a well known Canadian Bitcoin hacker who goes by @nvk on Twitter revealed he'd sent $40 worth of BTC via amateur shortwave radio. The transaction was broadcast from Toronto to a recipient in Michigan. To accomplish this, he first placed some Bitcoin in a new address. That address had a contract script that prevented anyone but his recipient from withdrawing it. He then broadcast the private key of the new wallet-- useless to anyone except his intended target-- over the airwaves. Link.

This is only one example of innovation in enabling Bitcoin transactions without a fast or secure connection to the internet. Another good case study is the Blockstream satellite network. The famous Bitcoin focused company has launched five satellites to date, enabling coverage across much of the globe. Connecting to the satellites will enable interaction with Bitcoin's second layer Lightning Network from anywhere in the world, and is currently operational on the testnet. Link.

Speaking of Blockstream, researchers employed by the company released test code this week for a proposed update to Bitcoin's signature scheme, known as Schnorr. These types of signatures have been discussed as an upgrade to Bitcoin for years now, but his is the first working code we've seen come out of those proposals. Link.

If you're not familiar with Schnorr it's worth reviewing the Bitcoin Improvement Protocol (BIP) where they're discussed. The TL;DR is that this more advanced signature scheme allows for more efficient multi-signature schemes that are indecipherable from a normal signature. They could also help make layer 2 transactions more private, and help enable cross-chain atomic swaps. Link.

It's always interesting to observe the kind of technical news that comes from the Bitcoin world in contrast to other projects, most notably Ethereum. Bitcoin news almost always involves very low level changes and infrastructure buildout.

While Ethereum researchers try to chase down every last edge-case to make Proof-of-Stake secure and sharding possible, Bitcoin researchers are implementing arcane signature schemes to eek out every last bit of efficiency. While Ethereum wrestles with rapid state growth, Bitcoin companies are launching satellites and sending transactions on radio waves, working to make Bitcoin functional even without the internet.

I don't think there's a "right" approach; they're just different. I think there might be room for both of them to succeed. But even if winner-take-all effects do dominate in the long run, I'm glad we have a diversity of projects exploring the tradeoff space.

For example, it may turn out that making the network as robust and efficient as possible-- such that a node can run on a raspberry pi and transactions can be broadcast via satellite or radio-- ends up being critical for Bitcoin's survival when censors inevitably crack down. But it also might be the case that enabling robust smart contracts at a global scale makes Ethereum a critical piece of the global financial infrastructure, one that quickly becomes too important for would-be censors to attack without political backlash.

My point is, I find this kind of work being done on Bitcoin utterly fascinating, and despite what anyone tells you, thats not incompatible with excitement over other crypto projects choosing different sets of tradeoffs!


4 Terabytes. The size of the EOS network state after only 8 months of mainnet. Apparently, only 5 block producers-- in the world-- are storing the full state! In this issue, I've extolled the virtues of exploring the tradeoff space. It seems increasingly irrefutable that EOS made the wrong set of tradeoffs. Link.